The Return of Whitikau – Emma Louise Pratt
He aha te maunga e tu nei? Ko Taranaki pea.
Who is that mountain there? It is Taranaki.

Karanga mai ra e te hou kāinga. Karanga mai ngā kaipupuri i te mauri, ngā

kaipupuri i te tapu. Ngā kaitiaki o ngā taonga o tēnei rohe. Karanga mai ki a
matou e ngā uri o Te Popi.
Karanga mai, karanga mai, karanga mai

Karanga mai ki a mātou mate, kia mihihia, kia tangihia e tātou katoa. Rātou kua
rere kotuku ki tua o Paerau.
E ngā tini mate haere, e moe, e moe, e moe

E ngā tihi rautapu o ngā maunga kōrero. Karanga mai, mihi mai ki a matou, ngā
kaikawea o to tātou taonga Whitikau. I toro atu āku ringaringa aroha ki a
koutou e whakatau nei i a mātou.
Karanga mai, karanga mai, mihi mai

Call to us local people. Call us the holders of the life force, the holders of the
sacred. The guardians of the treasures (physical, cultural, spiritual) of this area.
Call to us, the descendants of Te Popi (James Henry Pope).
Call us, call us, call us.

Call to our people who have passed away, so we can welcome them and grieve
for them together. They have gone like the kotuku (white Heron) to paradise.
Go and sleep now the many who have passed, sleep, sleep.

To the sacred peaks of the speaking mountains. Call us, greet us, the carriers of
our treasure, Whikitaku. I extend my arms of love to you who have welcomed us.
Call us, call us, call us.

– Karanga, or “call” by our kaikaranga, cousin Margot Ferrier who guided us forward at the beginning of the powhiri (welcoming ceremony) to return Whitikau to its home. Aotea Utanganui, Patea, Aotearoa New Zealand, 13 October 2022.

In 1996 I sent some letters to my mother’s cousins seeking information about some family history and particularly a piece of greenstone, with a letter and feathers. That began a long journey for me personally, that in time brought together other members of my extended family.

26 years later, in 2022 we gathered as a family to learn about this family taonga (treasure) and take it home. Luana Paamu who was instrumental in helping cousin Geoff Head organise this, contacted me today with some photos of the taonga in place now at Aotea Utanganui, the Patea Museum.

I often think about this small pendant, that could almost be overlooked in a drawer. But ahakoa he iti, he pounamualthough it is small, it is greenstone. I think we who were involved and were there to help hand it to its home, all agree that the taonga grew within us from being a memory of a historic moment that most of us knew little about, to being a uniting and enriching present that brought all of us into its embrace and carried us forward. Life was speaking to all of us in its own way, whispering into our ears. These are videos that capture that time together.

This ongoing storytelling project will include more videos and a body of written and visual work in the genre of creative non-fiction that will be published in book form.

A sense of place and belonging has been a theme in my work over the years, and my processing of research came out in manifold ways. In the last three years, visual work has dovetailed more and more consciously with storytelling and graphic telling. While the pandemic gave rise to my first webcomic and graphic storytelling around our family (which I presented during our family wananga in October 2022 see below the first part), the interest in telling stories and the lexicon and aesthetic of comic: speech balloons as portals, division of the page and panel, as well as paintings, functioning almost as storyboards for storytelling, I can see are traceable in my work as far back as 2002.